It's Not Sexy - And That's OK

Many professionals work toward the moment their project, presentation, or work blows someone’s socks off.  It’s easy to imagine a dream-like vignette where, once your peers and managers see your work, they form a conga line to celebrate the amazing things you’ve done. It’s sexy, they say. It’s slick. It’s mind-blowing.

It’s a seductive way to think about work. We want to make big impressions and get noticed. We love the attention that may lead to promotions and accolades.  It’s not that different from what we see every day in the media. Glamour sells. Sex sells. Do I even have to mention Paris Hilton?

But here’s the thing. Sex may sell, but substance delivers. The slick presentations and marketing speak are often only a veneer that’s designed to make an impression. It’s a short-term step in a much longer game that involves much more than simply making impressions.  

Once the lights dim and dance floor clears, there must be more to the story. For anyone to care the next day, substance must be part of the mix and that substance often comes from a specific skill: explanation.  By making sure people actually understand what we’re doing and why it matters, we can offer them a cure for the hangover they may feel once the excitement fades. 

Of course, this may not be sexy. It may not be glamorous. An amazing explanation does not typically instigate a conga line. I doubt your CEO will stand on her desk and exclaim “We need MORE UNDERSTANDING.” And that’s OK. Explanation is not about sexy - it’s about effective.

So, don’t be seduced.  Instead, become an advocate for substance. Work to make sure the bright lights and loud music don’t obscure the one thing that may actually help people engage with you: a basic understanding of WHY your message matters. 

NOTE: If you're interested in learning in-depth about the skill of explanation and how to make Common Craft Style videos, check out our online courses at the Explainer Academy.